Rahima Gambo: Bird Sound Orientations / Kunsthalle Bern

Kunsthalle Bern kicks off the 2022 fall season with a series of exhibitions and events. One of them is a solo exhibition with works by Nigerian multimedia artist Rahima Gambo. In her exhibition Bird Sound Orientations2 Rahima Gambo continues her practice of using workshops as a methodology of co-creation. For this exhibition, she invited participants to join her in the Walk workshop which took place over five days to create a collaborative work that sits in the middle and alongside her other works (see exhibition text below). The exhibition runs until September 25, 2022.

Rahima Gambo: Bird Sound Orientations2. Solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern, Bern (Switzerland). Opening, August 19, 2022.

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Exhibition text:

Circular breathing 1

The beginning can be considered a continuation, in the middle of what already exists—full of histories and potentiality. In Bird Sound Orientations 2 Rahima Gambo continues her practice of using workshops as a methodology of co-creation. For this exhibition, she invited participants to join her in the Walk workshop which took place over five days to create a collaborative work that sits in the middle and alongside her other works 3. It is a beginning right in the middle. The workshop participants are Chanelle Adams, Shusha Niederberger, Teo Petruzzi, and Ernestyna Orlowska. Each day of the workshop included individual walks, followed by collective reflecting, and creating. The embodied workshop situates the exhibition locally and calls us to walk or be, in full attention to our senses and internal world. 

Gambo is calling us to actively and attentively listen:

An orientation is the co-production of directionality. Birds don’t just move in space time, they feel in space time, collectively in order to migrate together towards a certain unknown but intuitive direction. How and where we move is directed by undertones, undercurrents that direct our flow.

If we sense closely, we can feel the energetic push and pull of these invisible currents that perhaps come from ancient inquiries about liberation and impulses to move towards holism and healing. In a dark dense forest, we see through sound and we find each other through subtle calls and responses. An ecology of communication; that sprouts and roots creating a thick overgrown, underground network of information, back and forth, transmitting and receiving subtle impressions of another way of knowing and being in the world…Through a certain type of embodied listening maybe new acoustic epistemologies—new ways of knowing and being—can emerge from the ground up. Maybe the ripples from this interaction can change what or how we see. 4


1 Often, I work while listening to music or sounds and sometimes this becomes a playlist on Spotify. For this moment I started listening inspired by the idea that a clean start is perhaps a utopian ideal, but one can introduce breaks, full stops, recalibrations, redirections, reorientations, do-overs, turnovers, expanding one’s understandings, and being multi-layered. My listening session started with Tracy Chapman’s New Beginnings album and continued with sounds and songs of these musicians; Sharon Freeman; John Coltrane; Vi Redd; Woody Shaw; Shembe YouTube videos; Al Grey; Freddie Hubbard; Clora Bryant; Dolly Jones; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert; Fela Kuti; Shembe; Lucky Dube; Fats Navarro; Mary Lou Williams; Hampton Hawes; Valaida Snow; RMBO, Morena Leraba, & Scarface Manolo; Alice Coltrane; Rahsaan Roland Kirk; Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & London Symphony Orchestra; Charlie Parker; Jill Scott; Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and SAULT. A playlist titled Circular breathing is on Spotify.

2 As described by Rahima Gambo “Bird Sound Orientations is the name of a new language system that marks our position in a sonic world with no gravitational center, filled only with the kinetic laws of bird songs.’ This is an excerpt from A Walk Narrative, written during the five-day workshop titled A Walk at the Biennale for Freiburg (2021). At the bottom of a page full of symbols signifying bird calls, participant Michaela Trocher scribbled in blue ink: ‘Bird Sound Orientations’. Weeks after the workshop, I kept thinking about the phrase. Bird Sound Orientations began to signify a method, a way of working that was less about seeing, more about sensing between objects – dwelling in the negative spaces to contemplate an experience of documentary that included all my senses, my body and my interior life. A method that revealed an alternative territory that could evade the ‘capture’ of the camera and elude the enclosure of linear, fixed narrative.”

3 The workshop methodology also informs Gambo’s ongoing collaborative work Tatsuniya series, which she has been working on since 2017 with 20 students from Shehu Sanda Kyarimi school, Maiduguri, Nigeria. Gambo writes that “works from the Tatsuniya series are courtesy of the Tatsuniya Art Collective a registered organisation for the collaborators in the Tatsuniya series that has grown from the workshops Gambo had with students in the series. The collective is made up of the 20 participants that feature in the photographs and videos. The collective is also a space where collaborators can initiate projects, find support, resources and be sustained in the long-run by the Tatsuniya series. It is also a place where members can define the parameters of long-term collaboration and begin to work through ideas of agency, authorship, representation, art/ image making, ethics through a model that is still being defined and evolving.”

4 Listening attentively is something that Kodwo Eshun has aptly articulated:

“Listening to oneself listening. Listening to emotions, and frictions of emotions. And then one has to decide what those frictions of emotions are. What is the tension they are generating, the rub between them. And then one has to name them – naming the parameters of emotions because you want to get the modulations of emotion. Listening to the act of your own listening, but also how this bounces back from the other, most of the times that’s what it is all about.” (Kodwo Eshun, Interview for Mediatec, [online video], 1999.)

This listening is not only confined to walking or when one is with their thoughts and emotions but acts, how one reads the world – images, contexts, and situations – calling for attention to articulating “what those frictions of emotions are” and to possibly reorientate?


About Rahima Gambo (source: official website):

Rahima Gambo is a multimedia artist who came to artistic practice from photojournalism and by working independently on trans media documentary projects. Her work engages with the tools of documentary making and an expanded visual language that includes drawing, film, sculpture, installation and sound.

Selected exhibitions include “Bird Sound Orientations [1]” at Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa, Have you seen a Horizon Lately?” MACAAL, Morocco. The 11th and 12th Edition Recontre de Bamako, the Biennale of African photography, Mali. Mercosur Biennial, 12th edition—Feminine(s): visualities, actions and affections, “Afterglow” Yokohama Triennale 2020, Lagos Biennale 2019. “Diaspora at Home” curated by KADIST and the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, Nigeria.

She was recently named a FOAM Talent for 2020 and she was amongst the awardees of the Contemporary African Photography Prize 2020 and part of the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass, Goethe Institut Photographer’s masterclass in Johannesburg in 2017. She has completed fellowships with the Magnum Foundation, Open Society Foundation Documentary Photography, and the International Women’s Media Fund.

In 2019, Gambo founded “A Walk Space”, her studio and mobile art space that explores the interdisciplinary intersections of the “moving” image through collaborations, exhibitions and workshops. www.awalkspace.com

She has an academic background in journalism, gender, social policy and social sciences.

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